Remote work diary: How Spanish startup Jeff found the silver lining in unexpected challenges

4 min read
Abby Sinnott
  •  Jul 14, 2020
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We’re back with a new edition of Remote Work Diary! Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to follow Juan Pablo, Andres, Diego, and Elisa, members of the tight-knit product team at Jeff as they use the pandemic to evaluate the opportunities (and setbacks) remote work can offer their growing Spanish startup. Last week, the team dealt with the initial discomforts the change brought. And this week, they’re navigating uncharted—and uncomfortable—challenges due to Covid-19.


Juan Pablo – Head of product design

With the transition to working from home still relatively new, this week our team was working hard to figure out the right tools, mindset and approaches to working remotely in the most productive way. We reached out to InVision and met with leadership to get tips on working remotely full-time. They also shared their Remote Work for Design Teams guide and decision stack, which were really helpful. We realized that remote work has amplified all the areas we needed to improve on, such as too many meetings, using the right communication channels, etc., so we’re taking advantage of the situation to develop more efficient work practices. For example, we were struggling with inefficient meetings, so I worked with Andres to develop guidelines for remote meetings (when to have them, what to have prepared, how to document them, etc.), which has really helped to improve things.

In addition to this, I spent a lot of my time this week in meetings with other leads talking about restructuring due to Covid. The situation kept changing all the time, and because I was so busy in meetings and trying to figure out what’s best for the business, I didn’t have enough time to communicate effectively with my team. I would have liked to send a note each day to the team and say, “It’s okay, I know what you’re all going through.” So reflecting back, I feel I could have been more supportive as a leader during this difficult time.

Juan Pablo Costanzo, head of product design at Jeff

Andres – Head of engineering

I’ve been working with other leads to figure out the best way of working remotely and collaborating cross-functionally. My other main challenge right now is the 1:1 meetings about restructuring. It’s hard to make people understand that this is not personal; it’s not about their performance, it’s about ensuring that Jeff stays alive after Covid-19. We have an enormous responsibility to thousands of franchisees that do business with us and trust us. We can’t let them down, even if that means making very hard decisions.

Andres Rodrigues Perez, head of engineering at Jeff

Diego – Engineering team lead and senior frontend developer

It was an intense and stressful week, but it was still motivating. Teams have been restructured and resources are being shared between squads.

I have been promoted to Engineering Team Lead and am going to be part of three squads, which will help me identify good practices and transfer them to other squads. Of course, now more than ever efficient meetings are very important.

Working remotely, there are a lot more meetings. This week, I had up to eight a day. It feels like I spend more time talking to people on calls, but on the contrary, I’m more productive when I’m not in a meeting. My priority was to hold meetings with all of my new teams this week, but I was overly enthusiastic and ended up postponing some. I’ve found it’s really difficult to keep meetings on time.

I realize I have to start saying “no” to certain projects and assume I will not get to everything. I have to be more selective and organized about my workload.

Diego Pertusa Irles, engineering team lead and senior front-end developer at Jeff

Elisa – Product designer

I feel that my days are becoming more productive and organized. But on a personal note, confinement is very boring. I bought an urban garden to give me something to do and help me disconnect outside of work.

With the restructuring, I’m part of a few new squads. The challenge is learning about the new squads, their ceremonies, rituals and having duplicate meetings. While it has been a difficult week, I think it will bring us closer together as a team. It’s also a very good opportunity to see what state our projects are in, think about new challenges, define new processes and goals.

Plus, there is a lack of documentation, so it’s hard to get up to speed on new projects. The structure of folders in “Drive” is not organized well so when teams change or new people join the company, they feel lost.

I’m trying to take advantage of the restructuring to improve things as a team. Today I have been talking to the logistics team. They have no
documentation about projects, no flows, no happy paths, no information architecture. So I have proposed that we work on it together. Everyone is very excited, because documentation will give us a good idea of the state of our projects and what can be improved. Creating all of this documentation together is the first step to building the team.

We’ve also decided to do a “virtual beer” with the design team on Fridays, where we talk and make jokes. This has really lifted my spirits.

Elisa Babiano, product designer at Jeff

Week 2 Recap

As Jeff has shown, week two was when the realities of a quick pivot began to show themselves. Like countless companies around the world, the team had to make some hard decisions to survive the economic downturn. Although it was a rough week, Jeff used the restructuring as an opportunity to develop better processes, strengthen existing teams, and form relationships with new team members.

And in times of such unprecedented change and uncertainty, it’s pivotal that leaders step in to fully support their teams. Though as Jeff discovered, leading in a remote environment is completely different, and often requires leaders to switch gears quickly. According to Greg Storey, senior director of executive programs at InVision, when faced with big changes and hard times, teams need servant leadership—which can take time to get right:

“Your designers need a work and life support system and, ding you’re it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you have to have all of the answers and you won’t—nobody does right now. But you can listen. Right now, your team needs a coach.”

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